Page images
PDF
EPUB

puted to the imperfection of art those failures which were caused by the limitation of nature. Wherever she went, she breathed nothing but cen

( fure and reformation. If she visited her friends, she quarrelled with the situation of their houses, the disposition of their gardens, the direction of their walks, and the termination of their views. It was vain to Thew her fine furniture, for she was always ready to tell how it might be finer, or to conduct her through spacious apartments, for her thoughts were full of nobler fabricks, of airy palaces and hesperian gardens. She admired nothing, and praised but little.

Her conversation was generally thought uncivil. If she received flatteries, she seldom repaid them; for she fet no value upon vulgar praise. She could not hear a long story without hurrying the speaker on to the conclufion; and obstructed the mirth of her companions, for the rarely took notice of a good jest, and never laughed except when she was delighted.

This behaviour made her unwelcome wherever she went ; nor did her speculation upon human manners much contribute to forward her reception. She now saw the disproportions between language and sentiment, between passion and exclamation ; she discovered the defects of every action, and the uncertainty of every conclusion; she knew the malignity of friendship, the avarice of liberality, the anxiety of content, and the cowardice of temerity.

To see all this was pleasant, but the greatest of all pleasures was to fhew it. To laugh was something, but it was much more to make others laugh. As every deformity of character made a strong impression upon her,

she

Bb 3

[ocr errors]

she could not always forbear to transmit it to others; as she hated false appearances, she thought it her duty to detect them, till, between wantonness and virtue, scarce any that she knew escaped without some wounds by the shafts of ridicule ; not that her merriment was always the consequence of total contempt, for she often honoured virtue where she laughed at affectation.

For these practices, and who can wonder, the cry was raised against her from every quarter, and to hunt her down was generally determined. Every eye was watching for a fault, and every tongue was busy to supply its share of defamation. With the most unpolluted purity of mind, she was censured as too free of favours, because she was not afraid to talk with men: with generous sensibility of every human excellence, she was thought cold or envious, because she would not scatter praise with undistinguishing profusion : with tenderness that agonized at real misery, she was charged with delight in the pain of others, when she would not condole with those whom she knew to counterfeit affliction. She derided false appearances of kindness and of pity, and was therefore avoided as an enemy to society. As she seldom commended or censured but with some limitations and exceptions, the world condemned her as indifferent to the good and bad ; and because she was often doubtful where others were confident, she was charged with laxity of principles, while her days were distracted and her rest broken by niceties of honour and scruples of morality.

Report had now made her so formidable, that all flattered and all shunned her. If a lover gave a ball to his mistress and her friends, it was stipulated that Floretta

should

should not be invited. If she entered a public room, the ladies courtesied, and shrunk away, for there was no such thing as speaking, but Floretta would find something to criticise. If a girl was more spritely than her aunt, she was threatened that in a little time she would be like Floretta. Visits were very diligently paid when Floretta was known not to be at home; and no mother trusted her daughter to herself without a caution, if the should meet Floretta, to leave the company as soon as she could.

With all this Floretta made sport at first, but in time 67 grew weary of general hostility. She would have been content with a few friends, but no friendship was durable ; it was the fashion to desert her, and with the fashion what fidelity will contend ? She could have easily amused herself in folitude, but that she thought it mean to quit the field to treachery and folly.

Persecution ac length tired her constancy, and she implored Lilinet to rid her of her wit: Lilinet complied and walked up the mountain, but was often forced to stop and wait for her follower. When they came to the flinty fountain, Floretta filled a small cup, and Nowly brought it to her lips, but the water was insupportably bitter. She just tasted it, and dashed it to the ground, diluted the bitterness at the fountain of alabaster, and resolved to keep her wit with all its consequences.

Being now a wit for life, she surveyed the various conditions of inankind with such superiority of sentiment, that she found few distinctions to be envied or desired, and therefore did not very soon make another visit to the fountain. At length being alarmed by sickness, she resolved to drink length of life from the golden cup. She

returned

Bb4

returned elated and secure, for though the longevity acquired was indeterminate, the considered death as far distant, and therefore suffered it not to intrude upon her pleasures.

But length of life included not perpetual health. She felt herself continually decaying, and saw the world fading about her. The delights of her early days would delight no longer, and however widely she extended her view, no new pleasure could be found ; her friends, her enemies, her admirers, her rivals dropped one by one into the grave, and with those who succeeded them the had neither community of joys nor strife of competition.

By this time she began to doubt whether old age were not dangerous to virtue ; whether pain would not produce peevishness, and peevishness impair benevolence. She thought that the spectacle of life might be too long continued, and the vices which were often seen might raise less abhorrence; that resolution might be fapped by time, and let that virtue sink, which in its firmest state it had not without difficulty supported; and that it was vain to delay the hour which must come at last, and might come at a time of less preparation and greater imbecillity.

These thoughts led her to Lilinet, whom she accompanied to the flinty fountain ; where, after a short combat with herself, she drank the bitter water. They walked back to the favourite bush pensive and silent; and row, said she, accept my thanks for the last benefit that Fioretta can receive. Lady Lilinet dropped a tear, impressed upon her lips the final kiss, and resigned her, as she refigned herfelf, to the course of nature.

TO THE FOURTH EDITION OF THE

DICTIONARY of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE*. MANY are the works of human industry, which

to begin and finish are hardly granted to the same man. He that undertakes to compile a Dictionary, undertakes that, which, if it comprehends the full extent of his design, he knows himself unable to performn. Yet his labours, though deficient, may be useful, and with the hope of this inferior praise, he must incite his activity, and solace his weariness.

Perfection is unattainable, but nearer and nearer approaches may be made ; and finding my Dictionary about to be reprinted, I have endeavoured, by a revisal, to make it less reprehensible. I will not deny that I found many parts requiring emendation, and many more capable of improvement. Many faults I have corrected, some superfluities I have taken away and some deficiencies I have supplied. I have methodised some parts that were disordered, and illuminated fome that were obscure. Yet the changes or additions bear a very small proportion to the whole. The critic -will now have less to object, but the student who has bought any of the former copies needs not repent; he will not, without nice collation, perceive how they differ; and usefulness seldom depends upon little things.

For negligence or deficience, I have perhaps not need of more apology than the nature of the work will furnish : I have left that inaccurate which never was made exact, and that imperfect which never was completed.

Published in folio, 1773.

DR.

« PreviousContinue »